One of my current goals is to become more literate with technology. I’m actually pretty literate already for a middle-aged, almost empty-nester (at least that’s what my boys assure me), but I recognize some gaps that need closed to better prepare me for the next season of life.
One of those gaps involves better use of “the cloud.” Specifically, I want to make sure all my photos and documents are backed up regularly. In investigating my options, I discovered that one of my memberships provided unlimited storage for photos. Turns out, it offered much more than that too, and I wasn’t using hardly any of it.
Up to this point, I used my membership for free shipping and to watch the occasional movie or television show. I just hadn’t investigated this service for anything beyond those for some reason. In addition to these benefits, this membership also offers free music and books as well as magazines, newspapers, audio books and games.
Sure, I pay for the membership, but the benefits are worth it. This is especially true if I use more of what the service offers and of what I’m already paying for anyway.
I then got to thinking about my other memberships. Was I not getting the full benefit of those either?
I applied this line of thinking to the membership that I most consistently use, my church membership.
The benefits of being part of a body of believers includes:
- Relationships, friendships & accountability
- Being part of something transformational
- Connection with multiple generations
- Encouragement & stability
- Supportive and Godly leadership
- Being a part of spreading the Gospel
No church is perfect, but being a member of a full-Gospel church sure has some amazing benefits, ones I have not found anywhere else.
As I thought about my church membership, I tried to assess if I was missing out on any of the available benefits. I am. This happened partly because I hadn’t thought about the benefits in a while and partly because I’d started taking my membership for granted.
Like with my cloud membership, I needed to take an active role in accessing the benefits of my church membership. Not only does my church provide the backup system I need to stay secure in my faith walk, but it also provides a place where I can exercise my gifts and even stretch myself. With this realization, I am determined to be a better church member.
Won’t you join me?
Recently, I’ve felt worn out both physically and mentally. I’ve also felt like I’m spinning my wheels spiritually. I believe in progress over perfection, but I’m struggling with keeping my energy and motivation up. In other words, I’m struggling with persevering.
Maybe that’s why the theme of cultivating perseverance stuck out to me during a recent read of Hebrews 12. Specifically, cultivating perseverance by once again resetting my focus.
Focus Determines Reality
Several verses brought my attention to thinking about my focus. Turns out, my thoughts were scattered and focused on the temporary. These verses together helped reset my focus.
Verses 1 & 2 – “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us; fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Verses 11, 12 & 13 – “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness. Therefore, strengthen the hands that are weak and the knees that are feeble, and make straight paths for your feet, so that the limb which is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed.”
I can’t help but picture a race like the one in the photo when I read these verses. When I get this visual, I am reminded of three important things that make for a successful race. These things apply to perseverance in any area of life, and I made this application to what I had been going through recently.
- Distractions are weighing me down.
- My goal is Jesus. Nothing else.
- Discipline brings strength.
Hebrews 12 ends by focusing us again on the “Why?” for continued perseverance.
Verses 28 & 29 – “Therefore, since we receive a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us show gratitude, by which we may offer to God an acceptable service with reverence and awe; for our God is a consuming fire.”
Through Jesus, we receive something that cannot fall apart. By letting go of distractions, focusing on Jesus, and learning from mistakes and failure, we cultivate perseverance that takes us to what we cannot lose. Let that truth encourage you today.
Many of us are overwhelmed by all the decisions we have to make day after day. Because that is often the case for me, I’ve written a lot about decision fatigue:
- Decision Fatigue: Choice overload & impact of overwhelm
- Preventing Decision Fatigue: What the Bible says about making decisions
- Let’s Revisit Decision Fatigue: A refresher because I needed one
Let’s now take a different perspective on decision making by looking at “Why It’s Easier To Make Decisions For Someone Else.” Consider these results from a study completed by two Chinese researchers.
A couple of points of application come to mind for me when considering the results of this study.
- We’re harder on ourselves than on other people.
- We struggle looking at our own options in a positive way.
- We remember our failures too quickly.
- Perhaps we need to pull back on the risks we’re willing to let others take.
- We could consider being more adventurous in decisions for ourselves.
Though I never thought about it before, the study is ultimately right. Making decisions for other people is somehow easier than it is for myself. Maybe that’s the way it should be though. After all…
- We don’t actually make decisions for others. We just encourage them in a certain direction.
- We live more intimately with our own decisions than with the decisions others make.
I’m not sure where to go with these realizations, but I don’t want to ignore the chord they struck in me either. Your thoughts?
You will let others down. Others will disappoint you too. Though it happens in varying degrees, broken trust is inevitable because we are human.
When it happens, three actions on your part – regardless of the depth of broken trust or your role in it – serves toward the goal of restoration.
1. Trust God – He won’t let you down. Only he is completely trustworthy.
“It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in humans.”
2. Forgive – Trust cannot be rebuilt without forgiveness. Forgiveness is a decision; the feelings come later. There’s also no set number of times to forgive.
“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, ‘Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.’” (Matthew 18:21-22)
3. Be trustworthy – You cannot control others. You can only control yourself, and even self-control is often difficult. No matter what, choose to be trustworthy.
“Better the poor whose walk is blameless than the rich whose ways are perverse.” (Proverbs 28:6)
Broken trust is painful. Forgiveness does not always make sense. It usually does not make the pain go away right away either. Yet, the Bible tells us forgiveness is the path to take, and God promises to direct us through it all.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; lean not on your own understanding. In in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
In The Purpose Driven Life, Day 3, Rick Warren begins by asking this question:
“What drives your life?”
In the discussion, Warren talks about “quiet desperation” and “aimless distraction.” All of us can probably describe what each of those means and be able to give examples of what they look like within our own lives.
Each of us also knows how these really mean that we’ve lost focus on what drives our lives. A truly frustrating state of mind, to be sure.
While we could look at this topic from a variety of angles, let’s focus on only one. In Warren’s words…
“You become effective by being selective.”
Taking on too much. Worrying. Being too busy. People pleasing. Mediocrity. Following feelings. Seeking acceptance from the world. Approval seeking. Making comparisons.
That’s my list. It’s what overwhelms me if I’m not selective. If I fail to focus and instead follow fads and feelings, I’m not at all effective. Instead, I’m depressed and frustrated, all because I’m not being selective.
Being selective means choosing best over good enough. It means pursuing expertise instead of being a generalist. Most important, for Christians being selective means letting God decide who, what, when, where, why and how.
How does this happen?
God’s word to Joshua when he was likely feeling overwhelmed be being thrust into leadership and given an overwhelming task to accomplish gives us the instruction we need.
“Keep the law always on your lips. Meditate on it day and night, careful to do everything it says. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8)
For the Christian, then, being selective means:
- Knowing God’s Word fully.
- Studying God’s Word continually.
- Obeying God’s Word completely.
- Leaving the results up to God.
Being selective involves walking a God-directed path. We can only know the steps to take, though, if we know God’s directions. Only then will we be effective in truly eternal ways.
“Surrendering to God doesn’t repress your personality, it enhances it.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
Enhancing something means raising it and amplifying it. It means improving it in value, quality and attractiveness.
That’s what God does with our personalities, the uniqueness he gave each of us, when we make Jesus Lord. For this enhancement to be fully active in our lives, we must realize what surrender means and why it’s important.
Surrender to God means giving up control of our lives to Him. It means seeking to know and do his will.
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Galatians 2:20)
It also means we trust him to do what is best for us.
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (Jeremiah 29:11)
God desires unity, not uniformity. He wants each of us to operate in the unique combination of gifts and abilities he’s given us. In our uniqueness, then, unity and success of the body as a whole happens.
“Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body – whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free – and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14)
“The righteous will move onward and forward, and those with pure hearts will become stronger and stronger.” (Job 17:9)
Job’s friends were pretty tough on him. They were wrong in their accusations too. Yet, Job kept focusing on God. Job knew that God’s ways were the only sure steps he could take.
So, Job moved “onward and forward” and became “stronger and stronger,” knowing God was faithful. Even amidst devastation, Job sought God.
Sometimes, one step onward and forward is all we can take. We can trust that God will strengthen us as we keep our focus on Him.
“The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.” (Psalm 34:10)
Ever been told to “pay attention”? Ever tell someone else to “pay attention”? We can all probably answer “yes” to both of these questions.
Every wonder why we so often struggle to pay attention? If pressed to give a short answer, I would say, “comfort and distraction.”
Distraction probably makes sense to most. We struggle paying attention often because we have so much other stuff vying for our focus.
Comfort, though? For me, yes. Often, actually.
A significant, often overlooked, danger to/enemy of our attention is comfort. Comfort with the world and with our own level of growth.
When we get too comfortable, we let our guards down. As a result, things (habits, activities, people, etc.) get into our lives – and become distractions – that shouldn’t. We then begin to pay attention to those distractions and make them our focus.
If you’re struggling to visualize this happening, read through the book of Judges. It’s filled with examples of how God’s people got comfortable and failed to pay attention over and over and over again.
Do An Assessment
To avoid the damage that can happen when you fail to pay attention, take time to assess your own attentiveness to the things of God regularly. The following questions can help:
- Do I regularly read and meditate on Scripture? Am I dwelling on it or rushing through?
- Are my prayer times forced and obligatory?
- How are my reactions? Am I quick to rush to conclusions? Do I make decisions based on far too many assumptions rather than taking time to get the facts?
- Is my attitude like a roller coaster?
- Am I always in a hurry? Do I constantly push others to step up the pace too?
Let the Holy Spirit show you where you need to make adjustments. Let God guide you to a place of focused attention that propels your productivity for Him.
Bookends keep books upright. They help keep them organized and in good condition too. Bookends of readiness for sharing the Gospel function much in the same way.
“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.” (1 Peter 3:15)
The books in the middle make up the “defense” and “reason” for the hope that you have. Essentially, that is your testimony. The bookends?
- Meekness & fear
Sanctification (holiness) keeps a believer ready to evangelize by lending authenticity to his witness. Meekness and fear indicate humble patience along with recognition of who God is and the truth of what the Bible says about Him. The Elliot Commentary explains it this way:
“Recognize, in word and deed, His full holiness, and therefore to treat Him with due awe.”
The bookends of sanctification on one side and meekness and fear on the other hold up our defense – our witness – by keeping the focus on God.
“The Lord Almighty is the one you are to regard as holy, he is the one you are to fear, he is the one you are to dread.” (Isaiah 8:13)
“When they see among them their children, the work of my hands, they will keep my name holy; they will acknowledge the holiness of the Holy One of Jacob, and will stand in awe of the God of Israel.” (Isaiah 29:23)
“And so I will show my greatness and my holiness, and I will make myself known in the sight of many nations. Then they will know I am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 38:23)